The Senatorial election is pretty much over already
Tuesday 12th July 2011, 3:00PM BST.
GOOD news – the Senatorial election is pretty much over, bar the technical formalities of votes being cast, ballot papers being counted and results being read out.
The news that a) there are only going to be four seats decided, and b) that the former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache is entering the fray, have all but ended the 2011 campaign before it really began.
In Senators Ben Shenton and Francis Le Gresley and Sir Philip, the likely field already contains three candidates so strong that that something really weird would have to happen for them not to get a seat out of it (Social Security Minister Ian Gorst is the next cab off the rank, but his position isn’t quite as strong as the first three).
The other big factor is that the Senatorial election takes place on the same day that Deputies will be elected – and that takes away a huge incentive to stand for Senator.
In the past people have done so, knowing it’s a win-win – if you don’t get a seat, you get a bump going into the Deputy elections a month later.
On that note, it’s worth remembering that of the 21-strong field in the 2008 election, ten of the 15 who didn’t get a Senatorial seat stood as Deputies immediately afterwards.
My guess would be that in the face of all that, there would be fewer than ten candidates on the Senatorial campaign trail this October.
Here’s the irony – the election won’t be much of a contest, there will be fewer people standing and for the first time in probably a decade the hustings meetings will actually be worth going to. Seriously.
The problem with the Senatorial hustings meetings is that there are so many candidates that have to answer each question that only a few get answered, and the answers are little more than soundbites.
With fewer candidates, audiences will get more questions in, candidates will get longer to answer them, and there is a possibility of audiences walking away with a genuine impression of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses.
How’s that for political reform?
ANYWAY, there is a number, expressed as a percentage, that will take you right to the beating heart of the story about how many Senators should be elected in October – a story that politicians spent almost all of last Thursday debating.We’ll come to it in a moment.
First of all, let’s say this: of all the subjects of interest to politicians, there’s nothing to whip them into a fever more than politicians. Enough about you, let’s talk about us.
Second of all, let’s say this: the fuss about this issue has largely been confined to three separate, but linked groups of people. See if you can spot the common thread between them – they are: politicians, ex-politicians and would-be politicians.
Thirdly, let’s say this: it is a fallacy that there are two sides to every story. There can be thousands of sides to a story. Two sets of politicians arguing are not going to run through every possible facet of every possible argument.
They’re going to give two sets of arguments from the point of view of politicians.
Fourthly, let’s say this: not everything of interest to a politician will be of interest to a member of the public, a voter, or even a JEP reader. The same applies backwards: I’m a member of the public, a voter and a JEP reader – if the States sat around debating the things that matter to me, they’d be talking about which Red Hot Chili Pepper album is the best*, Chelsea FC, and whether human technology peaked at the DVD boxed set. And then we’d be even more stuck than we are now. Arguably.
OK. Here is your number: 0.16 per cent. That number is the difference in the percentage vote between the fourth-placed candidate in the 2008 election, and the sixth-placed candidate.
That’s how much the difference between four Senators and six Senators matters to you. It matters 199 votes worth. That’s slightly above spoiled papers (144) and roughly a 72nd of the vote achieved by the poll-topper.
The States have seen fit to debate the subject of the Senatorial cut three times in a year. Perhaps, and I’m just saying perhaps, that time and effort could have been better directed elsewhere.
YOU know that niggling, scraping feeling that you’re going to regret what you’re doing …
Some weeks ago I climbed to the nearest rooftop and sang Freddie Cohen’s praises. A fine chap, I wrote, a big loss to the States and a better politician than most.
I stand by all of that. But to that assessment I would add that his resignation from the Environment Ministry – a job he campaigned for, and was elected to – in favour of his work as foreign minister – a job he was given without so much as the agreement of the Council of Ministers – does not reflect well upon him.
He has been a good Environment Minister, and is doing good work in the foreign minister job – but nothing that he has said about his resignation has done anything to remove the feeling that this is a simple case of reaching for a shinier, newer toy.